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Risks For Stroke

Traditional factors that put someone at high risk of stroke are:
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure;
  • History of mini-strokes (known medically as a transient ischemic attack, or TIA);
  • Atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm problem;
  • Diabetes;
  • History of stroke or heart attack.
However, researchers are now pointing to high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), linked to inflammation, as a sign of increased risk for stroke in healthy, middle-aged men.

In the study, men with the highest blood levels of a protein called C-reactive protein (CRP) were nearly four times more likely than men with the lowest levels to have a stroke a decade or more later.

More research is needed, according to a team led by Dr. J. David Curb at the Pacific Health Research Institute in Honolulu, Hawaii, to see whether measuring CRP levels can identify otherwise healthy people who may have an increased risk of cardio-vascular disease.

Other studies have suggested that CRP increases the risk of artery disease, heart attack and stroke. However, researchers have been unsure how the protein is related to the risk of stroke in different age groups and in people with high and low risks of cardio-vascular disease, according to the report published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The team of researchers followed about 8,000 Japanese-American men aged 48 to 70 for thrombo-embolic stroke - a type of stroke that occurs when a clot blocks an artery supplying blood to the brain.

In the late 1960s all of the men had their CRP levels measured as part of the Honolulu Heart Program. After 20 years of follow-up, 259 men had a stroke. This group of men was compared to 1,348 men who participated in the study who did not have a history of heart disease or stroke.

Men who had the highest blood levels of CRP at the start of the study were almost four times more likely to have a stroke 10 to 15 years after the study began than men with the lowest levels of the protein, Curb's team reports.

What's more, even among men without diabetes and high blood pressure - conditions that increase the risk for stroke - high levels of CRP corresponded with a 60 to 70 percent increase in stroke risk. Men aged 55 and younger who had the highest levels of CRP had a three-fold increased risk for stroke, and non-smokers had a nearly six times greater risk of stroke than men with the lowest levels of CRP.

However, CRP levels were not a good indicator of stroke risk in men older than 55, past or current smokers or in men who had high blood pressure or diabetes.

Still, the findings do not rule out that inflammation may play a role in the risk for stroke among individuals who have other risk factors for stroke. Indeed, "a high risk of stroke could mask any residual (and perhaps weaker) effects of inflammation," the authors write.

Please refer to Exercise And C-reactive Protein for ideas to combat this disease.

5/22/03







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